Carl Christian Schurz

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Carl Christian Schurz (b. March 2, 1827 in Liblar, City of Euskirchen near Cologne, Germany; d. May 14, 1906 in New York, NY) was one of the preeminent German-American citizens in the last half of the 19th Century. William Steinway noted his first meeting of Carl Schurz in his diary on 1872-06-16. During their life long friendship Carl Schurz and his family lent their support and presence to many social, political and artistic activities in the New York City German-American community. In his many speeches he constantly reminded his audience that they can preserve their heritage of customs and language but must integrate into their adopted homeland. The families enjoyed each other's company and personal friendship for over 25 years.

Carl Schurz had studied history and philology at the University of Bonn. Due to his involvement in the 1848-1849 revolution in Germany, he escaped from imprisonment to London, where he met and married his wife Margarethe Meyer. (12) The couple arrived in New York in 1852, but initially settled in Philadelphia. In 1854 they moved to the large German community in Watertown, Wisconsin. Schurz taught himself English and became a lawyer. His wife opened the first German-language Kindergarten in the USA in 1856, which daughters Agathe and Marianne attended. (2)

While the family remained in Watertown in 1855, Carl Schurz began his political career. By 1860 he was one of the named delegates to that year’s Republican National Convention. During Lincoln's campaign Schurz traveled extensively, speaking to meetings of German-American voters on the values of the Republican Party and specifically on Lincoln's behalf. (2) In July 1861 President Lincoln appointed him ambassador to Spain, but he resigned his post in December of that year to work on Lincoln’s re-election campaign. (12) In 1862 Carl Schurz achieved the rank of Brigadier General of volunteers in the Civil War Union Army and in 1863 was appointed major general. (21, p.144)

In 1867 Schurz moved his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where he became editor of a German language newspaper, and also contributed to several other Western publications. He continued to be active in Republican political affairs. (21, p.163) In 1868 he became the first German-American elected to the U.S. Senate, serving as Senator from Missouri from March 1869 to March 1875. (3) By 1870 he was publicly criticizing the administration, and in the 1872 election he led a reform-minded third party force of Liberal Republicans in opposition to Grant. (21, p.195)

Margarethe Schurz died shortly after the birth of their son Herbert (Diary, 1876-03-16), who in turn would die in 1900 in London. (2) At the time of Margarethe’s death Carl Schurz had achieved such recognition in the New York German-American community that William Steinway himself, along with Tretbar, Pagenstecher, Goepel and Mosenthal, sang at her funeral.  On that day William wrote: “I feel unspeakably sad and downhearted with the conviction that noble women like Mrs. Schurz must die.” (Diary, 1876-03-18) After her death Schurz moved his family to Washington DC to serve in the Cabinet of President Rutherford Hayes as Secretary of the Interior from March 1877 to March 1881. He and his daughter Agathe were often invited to the White House. (21, p. 249)

Upon his return to New York City Carl Schurz continued his involvement in national and local politics but renewed his friendship and support of the German-American community. Schurz was a frequent partner of William’s Tafelrunde, [eating at a reserved round table], which often included Oswald Ottendorfer of The New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, Dr. Jacobi, Professor of pediatric medicine, Hermann Uhl, and Udo Brachvogel, the playwright, and fellow Liederkranz members. (Diary, 1875-10-28; 1876-06-05) Of course Schurz and his daughters visited William when selecting a Centennial Grand piano for his children (Diary, 1877-04-07). Carl Schurz often paid his respects to William (Diary, 1881-10-25) and they corresponded with each other while both were vacationing in Germany, (Diary, 1888-09-10) where Schurz also visited and enjoyed long talks with Bismarck in Berlin. (2)  In 1884, William Steinway took pride in riding with Carl Schurz to Green-Wood Cemetery for the burial of Anna Ottendorfer. (Diary, 1884-04-04) Over the years William and the Schurz family enjoyed many a family dinner together (Diary, 1891-04-23) and outings to Astoria. (Diary, 1891-06-13)

Carl Schurz was welcomed and well recognized as an excellent orator and lecturer and William provided Steinway Hall for his lecture on slavery (Diary, 1874-11-25), on Benjamin Franklin (Diary, 1885-03-13) (14) and on Abraham Lincoln (Diary, 1885-03-20) (18) but also ensured that Schurz was compensated (Diary, 1885-03-28).  In 1887 Schurz published “The Life of Henry Clay”. (6, p.162) Schurz was a loyal supporter of the German-American Journalist Society, the German Hospital, was on the Board of Trustees of the German Legal Aid Society [Rechtsschutzverein], supported the Bismarck and Heinrich Heine Monument efforts and participated in the Sedan Day celebration. He spoke at the Grand Memorial Services held at Steinway Hall in honor of Emperor William I (Diary, 1888-03-21) (10) and he spoke again at the Reform Club dinner held at Madison Square Garden attended by Ex-President Grover Cleveland, William Steinway and 900 guests. (Diary, 1889-12-23) Carl Schurz was Chairman of the Executive Committee for the George Washington Centennial Celebration but William Steinway more than once presided at the meetings, (Diary, 1889-04-21; 1889-04-28) (20)

Schurz was honored with and invited to numerous receptions and dinners, many personally arranged by William Steinway and attended by Mayor Grant and other prominent New York citizens. (Diary, 1888-12-01) (8)(13) Schurz often spoke on the theme of “The Mission of the Germans in America.” William had also invited Schurz to the opening celebration of the new German Club building (Diary, 1891-03-16) (15). As Chairman of the German Day celebration (Diary, 1891-10-04), William again secured Carl Schurz as speaker. (16)

When William presided at the grand banquet in honor of the German Journalists Day (Diary, 1892-05-19) held at the Liederkranz Hall, he introduced Ex-Secretary Schurz with a toast stating “no other person could speak so well on the cultural obligation of the German elements in this country, its credits and faults.”  Carl Schurz closed his speech with: “Together let us preserve, continue and develop all that was good and carried here from the old fatherland, to honor and exalt the former and to serve the new.” (17)  Carl Schurz never tired of advocating good government and good citizenship, law and order, freedom, hard work and helping those in need. At the Department of the Interior in Washington DC a relief still hangs inscribed with Carl Schurz’s life motto in Latin: “ubi libertas, ibi patria” meaning, ‘Where there is Liberty, there is my Fatherland.’ (3) At the 50 year Anniversary of the Frauen Verein (Diary, 1895-03-21) Schurz was the keynote speaker of which The New Yorker Staats-Zeitung wrote: “Better than anyone else this great speaker will give justice to the unending efforts, the demanding work and the great success of this society.” (7)

Throughout his life, Schurz carried on an extensive correspondence with friends of many persuasions, especially with Fanny Chapman (Diary, 1881-11-23) (2) whom he had met 3 years after the death of his wife. She was the daughter of a judge in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Because of the opposition of Schurz's daughter Agathe, who managed his household after Margarethe's death, Schurz never married Fanny.

Carl Schurz was the most anticipated speaker at William Steinway’s funeral service held at the Liederkranz Hall, which overwhelmed him with great emotions for his friend of so many years. (9) In one of his last diary entries William noted a visit by “the Hon. Carl Schurz”. (Diary, 1896-11-02)

From 1892 to 1901 Carl Schurz was president of the National Civil Service Reform League. He also engaged in literary pursuits, editing Geschichtsblätter by Anton Eickhoff (5), contributing to Harpers Weekly (2) and had been Chief Editor, later co-owner, of the New York Evening Post from 1881-1884. In 1902 he was the main speaker at the 118th Anniversary Celebration of the German Society of New York, attended by Prince Henry of Prussia, the German Ambassador Dr. von Holleben, among others (19). The Liederkranz sang Muttersprache.[Mother Tongue], standard part of their repertoire. (Diary, 1880-01-29)

Carl Schurz died on May 14, 1906 at his residence at 24 East 91st St. in New York at the age of 78. At his Memorial Service held on November 21, 1906 at Carnegie Hall (11) former President Grover Cleveland and Dr. Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard University, were among the speakers, as was Prof. Eugene Kühnemann of Breslau University (a visiting Professor at Harvard) who addressed the audience in “his own and Carl Schurz’ native tongue” and said “he belongs to the history of both nations.” (1, pp 21-26) In his speech Dr. Booker T. Washington said “the most and the least that can be done at this time is to emphasize the lessons to be gleaned from his life and call attention to the service rendered.” (1, p. 38)  The male chorus of the Liederkranz and Arion sang Muttersprache for him; Frank Damrosch led the New York Symphony Orchestra in the march from the Götterdämmerung and the prelude to the Meistersinger by R. Wagner. (1, p. 5) Carl Schurz is interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Tarrytown, N.Y. next to his son Herbert. (21, p. 296)

Over 130 friends and acquaintances of the German-American community participated in the Memorial Committee (1, p. 43), which in 1910 erected a statute in a park at East End Avenue and 86th St. in Upper Manhattan to commemorate Carl Schurz. (4) A memorial fountain as well as the house where Lt. Schurz was billeted in 1849 exists in Rastatt, Germany. His portrait appeared on German stamps in 1952 and 1976.



  1.  “Addresses in Memory of Carl Schurz”, New York: Committee of the Carl Schurz Memorial, Carnegie Hall, New York, November 21, 1906
  2. Balch Institute Register of the Papers of CARL SCHURZ, 1841-1915, July 1990,
  3. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-Present,
  4. Carl Schurz Park Conservancy, New York, NY
  5. Eickhoff, Anton – Geschichtsblätter, Bilder und Mittheilungen aus dem Leben der Deutschen in Amerika, published by Carl Schurz, Vol.I, New York, E. Steiger & Co., 1884
  6. Faust, Prof. Albert Bernardt, The German Element in America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909.
  7. “Half a century in the service of Mankind”, New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, March 24,1895, p.1.
  8. “In Honor of Carl Schurz,” New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, December 2, 1888, p. 2.
  9. Liederkranz Society, History of the German Liederkranz of the City of New York 1847 to 1947 and of The Arion, New York: The Drechsel Printing Co., 1948, p. 117.
  10.  “Memorial Service of German Associations at Steinway Hall”, New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, March 21, 1888, p. 1.
  11.  “Nation’s Orators Glorify Schurz: Carnegie Hall Memorial a People’s Tribute,” The New York Times, November 22, 1906, p.3.
  12. "Sie schrieben Amerikanische Geschichte: Carl Schurz – Wo die Freiheit, da ist mein Vaterland“, Das Fenster, Athens, GA, November 2004, pp.41-42.
  13. “Speech by Carl Schurz,”  New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, December 3, 1888, p. 5.
  14. “Steinway Hall,” New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, March 13, 1885, p. 4.
  15. “The German Club. Dedication of its own building,” New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, March 17, 1891, p. 12.
  16.  “The German Day,"  New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, October 5, 1891, p. 5.
  17. “The German Press in America”, New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, May, 20, 1892, p. 1.
  18.  The Riverside Lecture Series; Abraham Lincoln by Carl Schurz. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1888.
  19. The German Society of New York, Bericht über das Festessen zur Feier des Bestehens, New York, 1902-03-08
  20. “They honor the memory of the ‘Father of the Land”’, New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, May 2, 1889, pp. 1- 4.
  21. Trefousse, Hans L., Carl Schurz: A Biography. New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.